With $15B in COVID-19 vaccine sales in sight, BioNTech aspires to become a 'global immunotherapy powerhouse'

Ugur Sahin
BioNTech expects €12.4 billion revenue from its COVID-19 vaccine this year with contracts in place for 1.8 billion doses. (BioNTech)

BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty is already hauling in billions of dollars in revenue, fueling the young biotech’s aspiration to expand beyond the pandemic shot to build what CEO Ugur Sahin calls a “global immunotherapy powerhouse.”

The mRNA vaccine brought in revenues of €2.03 billion ($2.47 billion) in the first quarter, with the majority coming from profit sharing with BioNTech’s U.S. partner Pfizer, BioNTech said Monday.

Already, the partners have committed to supplying 1.8 billion doses of the shot this year. Based on those supply deals, BioNTech expects to see €12.4 billion ($15 billion) in revenues for the full year. Orders for 2022 and beyond are already rolling in, with Europe recently signing a big order for 1.8 billion doses of the shot through 2023.

With huge revenues coming in, Sahin is setting his sights on the future for BioNTech.

“We are in a quite unique position to strategically invest cash flow from our COVID-19 vaccine into further maturing the company, deliver multiple product launches over the next five years,” Sahin said during a conference call on Monday. The company’s global goal is to build a “21st century immunotherapy powerhouse,” he said.

As part of that ambition, BioNTech is expanding in new geographies and in new therapeutic areas, the CEO said. After setting up its commercial subsidiaries in Germany and Turkey as well as operations in the U.S., the company is now eyeing Asia.

RELATED: Pfizer eyes $26B in COVID-19 vaccine sales for the year, with $3.5B already in the bag

BioNTech will set up a Southeast Asia regional headquarters in Singapore in collaboration with local government, the company unveiled Monday. The plan features a highly automated mRNA manufacturing facility, which will eventually boast an estimated annual capacity of several hundred of million doses of mRNA vaccines.

The new site will “add resiliency to our global supply network” and will also “form part of a rapid response capability for Southeast Asia to address future pandemic threats,” BioNTech’s chief strategy officer Ryan Richardson said on the call.

The company previously bought a plant from Novartis in Marburg, Germany, and churned out the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines mid-April.

RELATED: BioNTech gets rolling with mRNA production at former Novartis site in Marburg

BioNTech plans to start construction on the new site this year. Once operational by as early as 2023, the site will create up to 80 jobs, the company said.

“Having multiple nodes in our production network is an important strategic step in building out our global footprint and capabilities,” Sahin said in a statement. “With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall network capacity and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA vaccines and therapies to people around the world.”

Besides the Singapore site, BioNTech is also establishing a joint venture with China’s Fosun Pharma, which also includes a mRNA manufacturing facility for the Chinese market.

RELATED: BioNTech, Fosun Pharma eye 1B doses of COVID-19 vaccine capacity with new China JV

Accelerated by its COVID vaccine revenue, BioNTech is also quickly advancing its pipeline in oncology, the firm’s original focus before the pandemic. The biotech is planning three potentially registration-enabling phase 2 trials for 2021.

These include mRNA vaccine candidates BNT111 and BNT113. The former candidate will be paired with Regeneron and Sanofi’s Libtayo for PD-1-pretreated melanoma. And the latter vaccine will be combined with Merck’s Keytruda in HPV16-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.